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Skateboarding has long been considered a niche hobby, but it’s about to blow up. The sport that’s best known for adrenaline-fueled tricks and for floppy-haired kids taking over drained swimming pools, went mainstream at the 2020 summer Olympics, and its popularity has been soaring like never before.
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If you’re looking to help them buy their first skateboard, or if they are ready to upgrade to something more substantial, here are some tips for what to look for, as well as a few boards we think are great.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you to always make sure they have quality protective gear, like a skateboard-specific helmet, wrist guards, knee pads and elbow pads. After you’ve got safety checked off the list, here is how to find a terrific, highly reviewed kids’ skateboard. All of these are complete with trucks and wheels and are ready to roll.
What to look for when buying a kids’ skateboard
When shopping for a kids’ skateboard, you’ll find that there are two types of wheels to choose from: hard and soft. Hard are made from plastic, and soft are made from PU (polyurethane). We confirmed it with some experts, but—truthfully—anyone who has ridden a skateboard more than once will tell you that soft wheels are the only way to go.
Think of it like this: Soft wheels are like taking a ride in a car with quality tires. Plastic wheels are like going for a drive on your car’s rims. Plastic wheels give a jarring experience and make every maneuver more difficult. Soft wheels absorb the bumps in the road to make for a smoother ride, they also allow for a smoother stop, and for easier turning. When shopping for a complete board (one that has wheels, trucks and a deck), make sure you get one with PU wheels.
We’ll let you in on a secret: Marketing aside, there is basically no difference between a kids’ skateboard and an adult skateboard. Most kids’ skateboards are about 6” wide but, truth be told, it’s going to be easier for kids to learn on a wider, standard 7.5” board. A wider board gives them greater stability and something to grow with. We spoke with Lamar Betts, of The Skateside skateboarding school in Los Angeles, California, and he says he always recommends a 7.5 for kids to start. They are easier to start with and they’ll last for much longer.
Decks and Surface
The deck is the top of the skateboard that you ride on. Most boards are either plastic or made from wood—most often Canadian maple. On wooden boards you’ll often find “grip tape”, a sandpaper-like tape, covering the surface. That tape is there to help keep your feet from sliding off and it’s used on boards for riders of all ages and abilities.
While we definitely recommend grip tape for older kids learning to ride, keep in mind that if you have a smaller kid that wants to get used to their board by riding on their bums or bellies, it can be pretty uncomfortable and may even cause injuries. For younger kids, you may want to look for a plastic deck—just be sure it’s properly textured to prevent falls.
When first learning to ride, it’s going to take a bit of work for kids to learn how to maintain their balance on a moving board. When looking for a board, be sure to search for ones that are reviewed and described as stable and sturdy. A wonky board makes for a wonky ride, which is discouraging to new learners.
If your kid takes out their board and the wheels feel unstable, or turn too fast or too slowly, know that skateboarding is a visceral sport that’s all about customization and personal feel. All you need is to make a few adjustments with a skate key to get just the right fit. A skate key is a small wrench that may or may not come with your skateboard, but it’s a must-have for adjustments. Keep in mind that a tighter turn will make a board easier to learn on. Once your kid feels comfortable and wants to try out their tricks you can loosen it to their preference.
Don’t forget the shoes
After you’ve invested in a board, make sure your kid has the right kind of footwear. A good pair of flat-soled sneakers is recommended. Sneakers often have soles that are too thick or their heavy tread has too much grip on the board to allow for easy movement. We like Vans, the iconic skate shoe of choice, but any flat-soled sneaker will do.
Skateboards we recommend
Here are eight great starter boards for new skateboarders that’ll have them shredding the gnar in no time.
1. A superb starter board for under $30
Dubbed a “superb starter board” by reviewers. This complete board comes with quality components at an unbeatable price, including a Canadian maple deck, alloy trucks and PU wheels.
Reviewers comment on the maneuverability, durability of the wheels, and the smooth ride this board delivers. “At such a low price compared to other skateboards... it's amazing how good it [is].... It's a great board for both beginners as well as experienced skaters, and I couldn't be more pleased,” says one reviewer, while another says, “I recommend 10/10, especially for a newbie.”
2. A beginner board with light-up wheels
A great beginner board with light-up PU wheels, the 8-inch deck makes for a bigger surface for kids that are just starting out.
Reviewers love this board for the quality wheels and its easy maneuvering. In fact, more than one reviewer has commented on this being a neighborhood favorite, so don’t be surprised if your kid’s friends want to use this board instead of their own.
3. An American-made plastic board
This American-made, Santa Barbara-based company makes quality plastic boards that are great for all ages and abilities.
The scored, plastic deck makes this a comfortable starter board that won’t leave your kiddo scratched up from sandpaper grip tape. It also comes with large, stable, PU wheels, which give this board better stability overall. These boards are lightweight, incredibly portable and they come with a lifetime warranty.
4. A stellar starter board with a smooth ride
Soft wheels, a durable deck and bold designs make this a high-performing starter board that kids will feel cool riding. This versatile board comes in a classic shape that gives lots of stability to beginner riders, and reviewers praise this for being a board that gives a smooth, easy to control ride.
As one reviewer says, “Why wouldn’t you buy this board… This looks and feels just like an expensive name brand board from a company that’s huge in the skating industry.” This terrific budget board also comes with a 1-year warranty that covers any defects.
5. A well-priced board that is pro-approved
A core skateboard brand that was founded by pro-boarder Rodney Mullen, Enjoi is an affordable brand that’s recommended by those in the know. Betts says that Enjoi is a brand that he recommends to students who want a quality board with great features.
The smooth ride of this board will make your kid feel like a pro fast. This board is also highly recommended as an upgrade if you have a kid who is showing their love for the sport but wants something more substantial as they up their game.
6. An affordable set, with premium wheels
Originally a skateboard wheel company, Darkstar has expanded to full boards under the guidance of skating pro Chet Thomas. Their move to complete boards has been met with great reviews. This is another entry-level, under $100 board that Betts recommends. These completes are known for their smooth handling and durability.
7. A budget board that’s good for speed
A fun little plastic board for budget boarders. The PU wheels combined with carbon bearings allow for a smooth ride at incredible speeds. We also really like the 5” trucks that allow for better balance for beginners and maneuverability for kids who want to take their riding up a notch.
8. A colorful plastic starter board that’s a smaller size
While we maintain that it’s better to start on bigger boards, if you feel you must have a smaller board, this is the favorite of all the ones we’ve found. Its light-up wheels and cool and funky designs make it a fun ride. The plastic deck makes it little kid friendly, and the 6” deck makes it a smaller size that’s perfectly portable for younger kids.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
This article originally appeared on Reviewed: 8 kids' skateboards we love